When it comes to outdoor living, a gas barbeque grill is a must for most homeowners and having a kitchen island makes it more entertaining and functional as an outdoor bbq cooking area.  Beyond the basic five foot long grill island, you can add a side burner, a refrigerator, sink, ice container, countertop grill light, drawers, cabinets, and other accessories. In order to simplify the process of determining your needs, lets go through this list below to help as a guide to barbeque grills and outdoor kitchen islands.

What need or desire does it fulfill?

Are you satisfied with a portable grill that you can move about? Or would you prefer a grill that is built into an island where it is integrated into your backyard patio design? Do you intend to socialize around the grill where you can entertain family and friends? Are you a gourmet chef and want all the bells and whistles that one thinks of with an outdoor kitchen?

Form vs. function.

If you primarily want a barbeque just to grill and then eat inside, the simplest form of grill station will probably do and functionality may be the priority. How will it look on your patio when not in use? How does it fit in with the other landscape elements you may want to include such as an outdoor fireplace, seating areas, pools, fountains and lawn areas?

Does it serve a purpose other than grilling?

Add a sit up bar to a basic island to allow guests to interact with you while you are cooking. A countertop also is a place to put beverages, plates and dishes like a table top. A refrigerator or built in ice chest adds a convenience factor in not having to make multiple trips to your indoor kitchen. It lets you hang outside with your guests.

How should it be situated on your patio?

The location of the bbq grill is always a major decision. But answer the above questions first to determine its form and function. These criteria will go into its design and configuration. If it’s a simple grilling station, which direction will the grill face? How close to the kitchen doors should it be? Is there adequate ventilation and separation from combustible structures? Will it be straight, L-shaped or angled? Is there adequate patio area for circulation around it, and at the bar seating area?

What design choices do you have? (custom vs. modular/prefab)

Barbeque islands can be either custom designed and built out of masonry block or they can be pre-manufactured using steel studs, cement board and finished with stucco coating or stone veneer. Today there are many manufacturers that build islands to your specifications and then either ship them to you to finish or bring them to your home in an almost completed form.

Infrastructure – electrical, gas, footings, waterline, permits

Regardless of custom built or prefabricated, you will need at the minimum gas which can be either propane or natural gas. A natural gas line must be underground and stubbed out to come up inside the island or come in through the back depending on how it is situated on your patio. Propane tanks are not as convenient as having a connection to natural gasline, but are much less expensive in terms of initial installation.

Electrical may be needed for a grill light, hood light, countertop light, rotisserie motor or for accessory outlets on the island. Not providing an outlet to an island is a mistake which is why many grill owners end up using battery powered clip on lights.

One of the benefits of a premanufactured bbq island is you do not need to pour a significant footing as you will with a custom built masonry island. Just a solid patio surface will do. Building permits may or may not be required for the island itself, but if you are running electrical and or gas, those items should require permits. Check with your building department to find out what is required.

If a sink is desired, a cold waterline will need to be connected as well as a discharge line for the wastewater. Most building codes require a sink to be connected to the sewer system, but is usually not feasible when building an outdoor kitchen after the house’s plumbing system has been built. Usually a small dry well is constructed to allow for the sink waste water to percolate into the garden or planting areas. Just don’t use your sink as if it were a real kitchen sink. Think about what is going down the drain.

Finishes – countertop and sides

The countertop surface can be tile, travertine, granite or stone. The sides can be stucco to match your house or a cultured stone veneer depending on how fancy you want to get or perhaps tie it in with another structure such as a fireplace. Don’t forget ventilation along the sides to allow gas to escape.

Accessories and Features

The size of the grill is the most important consideration when determining the size and length of the island as it will displace useable countertop space. How many people will you be serving? Side burners are available to place sauce pans and skillets. Here’s a list of some of the accessories that you may want to consider:

  • A smoker
  • A wood burning grill to accompany the gas grill
  • A backsplash with raised bartop
  • Cantilevered countertop with no backsplash
  • Refrigerator
  • Ice chest/beverage holder
  • Drawers
  • Access doors to inside the island to reach gas shut off valves or propane tanks
  • Shelving or Drawers for storage
  • A tilt out garbage holder

Spend a good deal of time thinking about what you really want in an outdoor kitchen island and barbeque grill and whether you need all the bells and whistles that are available. You may be able to figure out the cost online researching the premanufactured options, but a certain amount of onsite installation will be needed. Better yet, contact a local landscape professional to help you with either the design and or construction of your island to avoid overlooking anything.

Here are some more barbeque islands that I have designed and built: